Jhed, Jonila fail to attend UN rights council session

GENEVA, Switzerland—Environment activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, alleged military abduction survivors, failed to attend the ongoing 55th regular session of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in this city due to the filing of grave defamation charges against them by the Department of Justice, the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch revealed.

Wanting to personally narrate their ordeal before the international body, Tamano and Castro were forced to forego their trip to attend to court hearings after the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division filed the new charges against them later this month.

The Philippine UPR Watch condemned the Department of Justice’s recommendation to file the grave defamation charge and elevating it to the courts as “a deliberate attempt at preventing them from telling the world of their ordeal.”

“Jhed and Jonila wanted to deliver oral interventions at the UNHRC general debates as survivors of abduction by the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government that also tried to falsely present them to the public as so-called rebel surrenderees,” Karapatan legal counsel and Philippine UPR Watch delegate Atty. Ma. Sol Taule said.

Castro and Tamano were also scheduled to speak at various regular session side events at the UN as well as in various other countries throughout Europe in the coming weeks.

“Both survivors had already secured travel visas but were forced to cancel when the DOJ and 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division filed new trumped up charges against them,” Taule added.

Castro and Tamano each posted bail last February 21 at the Dona Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court in Bulacan on charges the anti-Manila Bay reclamation activists deliberately defamed the military and the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government in a press conference organized by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict last September 19 in Plaridel, Bulacan.

“That is not prosecution but political persecution,” Taule said.

In an earlier statement, Castro and Tamano said the DOJ is in collusion with the NTF-ELCAC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in telling the courts a “patchwork” of stories to save face and cover up its practice of abduction and presentation of fake surrenderees.

“This decision proved that our questioning of the DOJ’s capability to conduct fair investigations was correct, adding the department conveniently ignored the fact that they were kidnapped and coerced into surrendering and admitting that they were members of Communist groups,” the young environmentalists said after posting bail last month.

Despite their physical absence however, Castro and Tamano’s ordeal shall be told in side events and dialogues with permanent missions of UN member states as well as officials of international civil society organizations in the UN nonetheless, the Philippine UPR Watch said.

“If the government thinks that it could cover up its abductions and other human rights violations by preventing Jhed and Jonila from personally telling their ordeal to the world, it is mistaken,” Center for Environmental Concerns executive director Lia Mai Torres said.

Torres added that foreign governments are very interested in knowing more about the case of the two young environmental defenders who bravely revealed their abduction and 17-day imprisonment in a Philippine Army camp in front of their abductors.

“The case of Jhed and Jonila helps reveal that human rights situation is no better under Marcos Jr. and environmental defenders are among the victims,” Torres said.

A network of human rights groups, churches, and people’s organizations, the Philippine UPR Watch is an active participant in UNHRC sessions through oral interventions, forums, dialogues and reports on the state of human rights in the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[DISCLOSURE] The reporter is a member of the PH UPR Watch delegation as chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network that also spoke with UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan in her visit to the Philippines earlier this year.

Jhed, Jonila post bail for defamation charge

State abduction survivors Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano posted bail at the Dona Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court in Bulacan province on Wednesday for the grave oral defamation charge against them by the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.

The environmental activists posted P18,000 each for their temporary liberty after being accused by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that they used a press conference to accuse the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict of abduction in Bataan Province.

In a press conference organized by the Plaridel Public Information Office last September 19, 17 days after their abduction in Orion, Bataan last September 2, the two victims revealed they have been abducted by the military and have not surrendered as the Philippine Army claimed.

Embarassed by Castro and Tamano’s brave revelation in front of their abductors, the military filed perjury charges that was dismissed by the DOJ in favor of the new defamation charge.

AFP’s ‘honor and reputation’

The new charge was filed by Lt. Col. Ronnel dela Cruz, commander of the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division based in Doña Remedios Trinidad.

Castro and Tamano were detained at the army unit’s headquarters during their ordeal.

In its resolution, the DOJ alleged the respondents “employed machinations and took advantage of the benevolence of the 70th IB (Infantry Battalion) and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to embarrass and put them in bad light.”

“There was a deep-rooted motive on the part of respondents to select a public forum that would express their sentiment. We consider the statement of respondents to be serious slander because the circumstances of the case show that they consciously, intentionally and on purpose waited and chose the press conference which would be held in public to air their grievance and plight,” the DOJ added.

“The slanderous words were obviously uttered with evident intent to strike deep into the character, honor and reputation of (the) complainant and the AFP,” the resolution reads.

Abductors and liars

In a joint statement, Tamano and Castro on Tuesday bewailed that the victims have become the respondents, even after the Supreme Court recently granted them Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data protection mechanisms.

“The abductors are very intent to jail those they’ve abducted,” the victims said.

The two also revealed that the Office of the Solicitor General has filed an omnibus motion appealing the writs granted them by the high tribunal.

“The only criminals here are the AFP and NTF-ELCAC abductors and liars, as well as the other government agencies that assist them,” the two added.

The only two victims who bravely revealed being abducted in the presence of their abductors, Tamano and Castro are being hailed as the faces of enforced disappearances and fake surrenders human rights organizations accuse the military of committing.

Their testimonies have also become instrumental in the issuance of recommendations for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC by the United Nations special rapporteurs on climate change and freedom of expression and opinion. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gawa-gawang kaso’t dahas, kambal na mukha ng pasismo ng Estado

Ni Nuel M. Bacarra

Sa pag-igting ng pasismo sa bansa, kasabay na pinag-iibayo rin ng mga armadong pwersa ng Estado ang paggamit ng iba’t ibang porma at pamamaraan para higit na gipitin ang mamamayang lumalaban. Ang mga batas na dapat nagpoprotekta sa mamamayan ay ginagamit ng ilang opisyal ng pamahalaan sa pagpapatindi ng pandarahas, paninindak at panunupil para protektahan ang kaayusang kanilang pinakikinabangan. Mas marahas, mas mainam para sa kanila.

Nakasaad sa Artikulo II Seksyon 11 ng Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas sa ilalim ng titulong “Mga Patakaran ng Estado” na: “Pinahahalagahan ng Estado ang karangalan ng bawat tao at ginagarantiyahan ang lubos na paggalang sa mga karapatang pantao.” Dagdag pa rito, mayroon nang batas kontra tortyur, ang R.A. 9745; batas sa sapilitang pagkawala o enforced disappearance (R.A. 10353) at R.A. 11862 o ang pinalawig na batas kontra sa human trafficking. Mayroon ding Magna Carta of Women, ang R.A. 9710. Mayroon pang nakasalang na panukala sa Senado na S.B. Blng. 2447 tungkol sa mga saligang karapatan at kalayaan ng mga tagapagtanggol sa mga karapatang pantao.

Kung ang mga batas na ito ay ilalapat sa mga kaso ng mahigit na 700 bilanggong pulitikal sa buong bansa, marami na sanang napalaya kabilang ang mga tagapayo ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa usapang pangkapayapaan; sina Frenchie Mae Cumpio at iba pang biktima ng modus na tanim-ebidensya at mga gawa-gawang kaso. Resolbado na rin sana ang kaso ng tinaguriang biktima ng “Bloody Sunday” sa Southern Tagalog kung saan siyam na aktibista ang pinatay at apat pa ang inaresto noong Marso 2021; at inilitaw na sana sina Dexter Capuyan at Bazoo de Jesus.

Iniikutan ng mga armadong pwersa ng Estado ang mga batas at ginagawang armas ito laban sa naghahangad ng panlipunang pagbabago.

Nais ng mga uhaw-sa-dugong pasista na walang pagkakontento sa pagpatay, pambobomba ng mga komunidad o sa simpleng panghuhuli o pagdukot, na maging karaniwang kaayusan ito sa lipunang Pilipino upang sindakin ang mga pwersang naghahangad ng pambansang kalayaan at demokrasya. Subalit sa kaso nina Jhed at Jonila na sinampahan ng gawa-gawang kaso, ito ay para isalba ang kahihiyan nila sa paggamit ng binaluktot na interpretasyon ng batas o pag-kriminalisa rito.

Nagpapatuloy na banta sa buhay

Nitong Pebrero 5, sa protesta ng mga progresibong tagapagtanggol ng karapatang pantao at kapaligiran, mga syentista at mga kabataan sa tanggapan ng Department of Justice at Korte Suprema sa Padre Faura, Manila, iginiit nila ang paggawad ng positibong desisyon sa isinampang writ of amparo at writ of habeas data nina Jonila Castro at Jhed Reiyana Tamano.

Ang petisyon para sa writ of amparo ay isang remedyo ng isang tao na ang karapatan sa buhay, kalayaan at seguridad ay nalalabag o nanganganib dahil sa iligal na gawain o pagkaligta sa mga batas ng mga upisyal ng gubyerno o empleyado o pribadong entidad o mamamayan. Mabibilang dito ang ginagawang red-tagging ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), iligal na pagtugaygay at iba pa na nararanasan pa rin nina Jonila at Jhed sa kasalukuyan.

Ang writ of habeas data naman ay isang karapatang konstitusyunal ng mamamayan para iwasto ang maling datos ng gubyerno o pribadong institusyon hinggil sa pagkatao ng isang indibidwal. Sa ganitong usapin, tahasang sinasabi ng dalawang aktibista na hindi sila rebelde na sumuko sa militar tulad ng ibinibintang sa kanila para papaniwalain ang publiko at bigyang-katwiran ang pagdukot sa dalawa.

Ang tapang at paninindigan nina Jonila at Jhed na ilantad nang harap-harapan ang katotohanan ng pagdukot sa kanila ng militar sa Bataan noong Setyembre 2, 2023 ang nagsandal sa pader sa militar para palayain silang dalawa. Hindi na sila mabinbin pa o patagalin sa kustodiya ng militar dahil katakut-takot na kahihiyan ang aabutin nila mula sa sambayanan.

Dahil depensibo ang militar sa politika, nanatili ang panghaharas sa kanila. Sinampahan sina Jonila at Jhed ng kasong perjury o pagsisinungaling. Dahil wala naman talagang batayan ito at lalong nagpatibay sa testimonya ng pagdukot sa kanila, ibinasura ito ng korte. Panibagong kaso naman na grave oral defamation o malalang paninirang-puri ang planong isampa sa kanila dahil diumano ay ginamit ng dalawa ang press conference (na inisponsor ng NTF-ELCAC) para “siraan” ang militar.

Hindi na bago

Ganito na ang padron ng mga panghaharas ng militar sa tuwing ibabasura ng korte ang mga gawa-gawang kasong isinasampa nila laban sa mga aktibista o kung makadaragdag ito sa ibayong kahihiyan nila. Napakadali sa kanila ang gumawa ng kaso at magmanupaktura ng mga ebidensya para sindakin at pahirapan ang mga taong nagtataguyod ng katarungan at kapayapaan at ng mga naghahangad ng pagbabago sa lipunan.

Ang dating National Security Adviser na si Hermogenes Esperon mismo ang nagsampa ng kasong perjury noong Mayo 2019 laban sa sampung indibidwal. Ginawa ito matapos magsampa ng petisyon ng writ of amparo at habeas data sa Korte Suprema ang organisasyon ng KARAPATAN, GABRIELA at Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

Noon lamang Enero 9, 2023 pinawalang-sala ng Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 138 ng Quezon City ang 10 indibidwal mula sa tatlong organisasyon.

Ang kasong ito ay isa lamang sa mga ligal na maniobra ng paggamit ng Estado sa mga batas para kahit paano ay mapigilan ang mga aktibista sa pagtataguyod ng mga karapatan ng mamamayan at sa paglalantad ng kabulukan ng Estado.

Sa Timog Katagalugan, maliban sa mga kaso ng extra-judicial killings, 13 indibidwal din mula sa iba’t ibang progresibong organisasyon ang sinampahan ng mga gawa-gawang kaso. Talamak nang ginagamit ng estado laban sa lumalabang mamamayan ang batas kontra sa terorismo o ang R.A 11479 at di na iilang bilanggong pulitikal ang kinasuhan gamit ang batas na ito. Pero kung gaano kabangis ang batas na ito, tinutugon ito ng paglaban ng mamamayan.

Mga tagasuporta nina Jonila at Jhed na nag-protesta sa harapan ng Korte Suprema sa iniisip ng DOJ na pagsasampa sa dalawang biktima ng pagdukot ng kasong “paninirang puri.” (Larawang kuha ni N. Bacarra)

Lakas ng mamamayan

Ang pagdukot kina Jonila at Jhed at ang pagsisiwalat nila rito ay batid na malawak na mamamayan. Ang pagbubunyag ng katotohanan na ikinagalit ng mga pasistang galamay ng estado ay kaso ng “malubhang pagsisinungaling” laban sa kanila na naging katawa-tawa na. Umuuk-ok ito sa tiwala ng taumbayan sa armadong pwersa ng bansa.

Nakarating na ito sa Komisyon ng Karapatang Pantao ng United Nations at lubos na malalantad pa ito sa darating na mga buwan.

Malakas ang loob ng mga progresibong organisasyon at indibidwal dahil ang lakas nila ay nagmumula sa kanilang pagkakaisa at sa suporta ng taumbayan. Sina Jonila at Jhed ay larawan ng laban ng sambayanan. Anumang pag-alipusta sa kanilang karapatan at pagtatangka sa kanilang buhay ay may katapat na paglaban at sigaw ng lumalabang mamamayan. #

TAMBAYAN Ep 3: Kumusta na sina Jhed at Jonila?

Sa pinakahuling episode ng Tambayan ngayong tinaguriang ‘International Day of Climate Action’, kumustahin natin ang dalawang environmental defenders na sina Jhed Tamano at Jonila Castro. Kamakailan lang ay kinasuhan sila ng Department of National Defense ng perjury kaugnay ng paglalantad nila ng pagdukot sa kanila ng mga militar.

Sa gitna ng unos

(Para kay Gene Roz Jamil C. de Jesus)

Ni Ibarra Banaag

Kahit lumuluha sa gitna ng hinahon,

nawa’y mapangibabawan ang hamon,

sana’y maging kalmado sa kumunoy,

kahit pa tumatangis sa dapit hapon.

Ano kaya ang kaniyang dinadanas,

sa sakmal ng mga walang habag,

ang bunsong sa Ina ay tumahan,

na ilang araw na niyang hinahanap.

Sa nagpayabong ng dahon at bulaklak,

 na sa alikabok ay muli pang madama,

sidhi at diliryo ng dambuhalang bigat,

namumukod tanging hangarin matupad.

Ang bisig at kamay na yumayakap,

mga matang may taglay na liwanag,

ang labi na humahalik sa dalamhati,

mga binting naghahatid ng pagbati.

Ngunit kahit sa siphayo’y di mapakali,

kahit pa pilit niyayapos ang pangamba,

kahit pa bangungot ay karimarimarin,

hiling sa Diyos, matunton ang hininga.

Higit na mahalaga ay magka-tuldok,

kaysa mabalisa ng walang tagpos,

at huwag matuyo ang luha sa pisngi,

o ibaon pa sa duyan ng huling hibik.

Subalit habang ang puso’y tumitibok,

ang bawat pintig ay lukso ng dugo,

handang manikluhod sa haring araw,

na bunutin na ang tarak na balaraw.

Ang salitang handa ay walang mukha,

ang tatag ng dibdib ay mapanlinlang,

abutin mang mapaos ang mga tinig,

‘di kailaman magbabago ang tindig.

May 8, 2023


De Jesus is a former student leader and a cum laude graduate of UP Baguio, reported missing since April 28 with Dexter Capuyan, a Bontoc-Ibaloy-Kankanaey indigenous peoples’ right activist. The latter had been accused by state forces as a leader in the New People’s Army.

The two were in Taytay, Rizal where Capuyan was seeking medical attention before they became incommunicado. Human rights group said that it is likely that they have been abducted by the military and demand that the two be immediately surfaced.

Dexter Capuyan (Photo from the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance)

No justice for lots of victims

Abduction and enforced disappearance survivor to the United Nations:

“I believe that this will still be a tough struggle, especially with the worsening case of impunity, [There is] no justice to a lot of human rights violations victims. But we are still hopeful a lot of people in the Philippines are still taking the risk, who are still standing up and fighting for justice.”–April Dyan Gumanao, Alliance of Concerned Teachers Region 7 coordinator

(Image by Jo Maois D. Mamangun)